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Sunday 10th August 2008
It is raining in Köln again so it's fitting I'm leaving this afternoon.
It has been a funny and interesting time here and really, it started on Thursday evening before I even left Hamburg.
They have been threatening to do this because I kept leaving them everywhere. But around the time a storm blew into Hamburg on Thursday, I lost my sunglasses.
I liked them a lot and looked everywhere for them but unless they are hiding, they are gone. Some other German somewhere probably has them and does not quite know what to do with them because Germans really don't wear sunglasses much, even when it's sunny. (They want the whole sun experience.)
So I bought a cheap pair (€7.95) at the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof on Friday morning and they were OK at the time – a bit camp, a bit Euro, but isn't that the same? – and boarded the train for Köln.
But they weren't OK because they were too curved and my eyelashes rubbed against the lenses. If you've ever had this happen, you'll know it's (1) irritating and (2) makes you feel trapped, like your eyes are hemmed in as the room contracts. I bought an even cheaper pair in Köln (€3.95 on sale) with much better frames and less of a curve but the lenses - almost beige - are lighter. Too light, in fact.
So new sunglasses are still on the agenda.
I also have thinner ankles.
Because I spent most of yesterday afternoon on the back of a motorbike touring the countryside. I met Michael through the internet and he likes to ride motorbikes. He loaned me some black clothes, all too big for me, as well as a helmet and gloves and other riding gear and off we set.
The all-black garb was too loose, doubled over or gaping or both to fit, and I was a flapping black blob, a dour windsock, on the back of the motorbike. Thankfully the German fashion police have far too many other people to apprehend before I would have got a look in, so I was safe.
But I was wearing very short ankle socks (my own) so the wind whipped around my ankles as we chugged along country roads. (I say chugged because his motorbike coughed and spluttered much of the time.)
So there I was on the back of the bike ducking and weaving through traffic as we left Köln. My Dad had motorbikes and he used to run us around on the back when we were younger, so I could close my eyes and it almost took me back ...
The countryside was pretty, summery green, though it did seem odd to be stuck at traffic lights in the middle of nowhere ... until you looked left and saw a village down the road and then looked right and saw another a bit further on. And of course there were the smells of freshly cut hay and water and cow shit and, rather oddly, würst as we powered through a nature reserve.
We stopped off to look at a small house in a village Michael had thought of buying (€70,000 for the house, not the village), and we walked through a really nice village with a castle and a river and cobblestones and cafés where we had coffee and I bought some locally made craft tiles, blue with water motifs and a small yellow frame.
Which I left behind.
And then we went to the lake for a swim.
It was supposed to be the gay lake but that was further out. Of course it could have been the gay lake because as we walked to find a good spot (there was no sand of course, just dirt banks in places) we saw an opened condom packet (though no condom) on the ground. (So before you go yuk! remind yourself it was good they used a condom, whoever the users were.)
Michael stripped off but I said no - the water felt quite warm but I just didn't feel like swimming and wanted some alone time, even if I could hear and see Michael mooning me every time he did a swan dive. I watched a big black dog splashing about retrieving sticks, and I thought about Daniel because I had missed him: the things I had done that day - except for the Honda - were the kind of things I would have done with him if he had been with me.
We were out for about 4 hours and we were both yawning when we got back. We agreed to meet later for dinner and went our different ways for a few hours.
As I left his flat in central Köln, I again thought about the cultural differences I am experiencing because bugger me if the sunglasses he had lent me as part of my riding outfit weren't perfect! Plain and dark with silver frames and not unlike the ones I just lost.
I hinted in a number of ways that I loved the sunnies and would love even more to keep them, but he didn't take the hint.
Or maybe he just didn't get my hints. Because one thing I learned from Michael is, one of the reasons Germans are so direct in their requests in comparison to English language cultures, is they regard people not being direct with their requests as rudeness. If you are asked what you want, to not give the direct and proper answer can require interpretation.
Which can be a bit of an ask.
Which can be seen as being rude.
And to be honest, that made a lot of sense to me.
So I still have sunglasses to buy.
But I am also having lunch with Michael before I leave - I thought I had lost the craft tiles I bought yesterday in the village with the castle but he has found them - so maybe he will give me the sunnies as a parting gift.
Or maybe if I ask for them ...
But that might be just a little bit too direct, even for Germany.
published 1 August 2011